Catholic groups launch climate change efforts

WARSAW, Poland
Catholic Church officials from 38 countries have launched a campaign with more than 170 Catholic organizations to persuade the United Nations to meet the "moral obligation" of tackling climate change.

"Climate change is a reality today affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions in developing countries by exacerbating storms, droughts and natural disasters," said an appeal signed by 92 bishops, archbishops and cardinals.

"As a matter of equity and responsibility, those who have created the problem must pay for the solution. Economically developed nations have a moral obligation to tackle climate change because of their disproportionate consumption of natural resources," it said.

The climate campaign and related appeal were launched by Caritas Internationalis, which represents 162 national Caritas church charities, and CIDSE, a Belgian-based alliance of 16 Catholic development agencies. The campaign was introduced Dec. 7 at the cathedral in Poznan, Poland, at a Mass concelebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Grzegorz Balcerek of Poznan and Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka, president of Caritas Bangladesh.

Government representatives from around the world were meeting in Poznan Dec. 1-12 for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The religious leaders' appeal, titled "A Call for Climate Justice," said poor communities were affected the worst by climate change, but had "done (the) least to cause it." It pledged Catholics worldwide would "stand in profound solidarity" with those suffering harsh effects.

"We are deeply concerned by the disproportionate impact human-induced climate change is having on poor and vulnerable people living in developing countries," it said.

"It is our moral obligation to take urgent action to tackle climate change and to do so in support of those most affected. We call on you to achieve a strong, binding and just global climate agreement to ensure the survival and well-being of all God's children," said the appeal, signed by 15 church leaders from Argentina and four from Nigeria, as well as Cardinals Rodolfo Quezada Toruno of Guatemala and Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.

Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles, president of Pax Christi USA, and the president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conference of the European Community, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn of Rotterdam, Netherlands, also were among the signers.

U.N. sources said their talks would help prepare a new global climate treaty, to be finalized in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. The treaty will be based on a 2007 plan -- developed in Bali, Indonesia -- under which developing countries agreed to take "nationally appropriate mitigation actions" against climate change if "supported and enabled by technology, finance and capacity-building" from developed countries.

However, they added that funding for mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries would be a crucial prerequisite for an agreement.

In their appeal, the Catholic leaders said every citizen had a responsibility "to promote and to protect the common good," as well as holding "governments to account for their actions." They urged Catholics to follow calls by the late Pope John Paul II by "tackling climate change as one international family."

"Climate change is an issue of social justice and must be met in solidarity by stretching our collective perspective beyond the limitations of short-term interests to one that protects and promotes the common good of all," added the appeal. "It is imperative these countries receive the economic and technical assistance they need to adapt to climate change and ensure better lives and livelihoods for their people."

The president of CIDSE, Rene Grotenhuis, said industrialized countries had been responsible for 70 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, adding that billions of dollars currently made available to ease financial-market pressures should not obscure the need to address climate change, which, if neglected, would exert a price "on a human and financial scale we cannot yet comprehend."

A CIDSE statement said Catholic member organizations would run public campaigns throughout 2009 encouraging postcards and online petitions urging governments to support a strong deal at the Copenhagen conference.

It added that CIDSE would relay demands to national leaders to ensure the "shared call for climate justice will keep pressure on international leaders at key moments."

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